Nick Sagan – A New York State of Mind

When Auburn journalist Art Wenzel was seeking a famous writer to headline his Authors Exposed Four (see sidebar) last November, he never believed that his first choice would actually be interested. Until one day he found, to his amazement, a reply in his e-mail. Nick Sagan, the son of the late Cornell University professor Dr. Carl Sagan, was at home in Ithaca with his wife, Clinnette, busily working on his third novel.

A TV scriptwriter and author of two science fiction best sellers (Idlewild and his recently published Edenborn), Nick Sagan has his own claim to science fame. He has written screen adaptations for Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, and The Deus Machine, by Pierre Oulette and shares authorship of an award-winning computer adventure game: Zork Nemesis: the Forbidden Lands. He has worked with directors Martin Scorcese and David Fincher, and was recently asked by another New Yorker, actor Tom Cruise, to adapt The Mark, a popular comic book feature into a major motion picture.

And he is the six- year-old voice on the Voyager spacecraft heralding, “Hello from the children of planet Earth.”

But he is best known for his work on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Enterprise, and Voyager.

“It’s my favorite part of the world,” Nick revealed, remembering what it was like growing up in the ’70s in the Finger Lakes. “I love the climate. I love the people. It’s like living on a nature preserve. I love the fact that I can be writing. I can look up out of my window and I can see deer. In Los Angeles, I’d be very lucky to see a coyote.”

Growing up in Ithaca for Nick,  on many occasions, consisted of eating dinner with Isaac Asimov or Robert Heinlein, or visiting with Rod Serling, who lived just down the street. He also found himself sitting out under the starry skies with his dad, gazing into the heavens and discussing philosophical profundities.

He can still hear his father admonishing Hollywood (with great scientific conviction) for that now famous Star Wars science faux pas. “A parsec is a unit of distance, not time” stated Dr. Sagan. “They can afford to get that right.”

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1970, Nick remembers his first seven years living in Ithaca as happy ones, and loving everything about the Finger Lakes region – including school, he added.

Then, in 1977, his parents divorced. Nick moved to Los Angeles with his mother, Linda Salzman. “It was a very dark time for me,” Nick continued, until he started to attend college. With the help of an instructor, he sold his first screenplay.

Thrust early into the annals of science by his father, to wind up writing for Gene Roddenberry was prophetic for Nick. Oddly enough, Roddenberry’s plot for Star Trek The Motion Picture was about Kirk and Spock’s discovery of the Voyager spacecraft on a journey homeward from the far reaches of the galaxy.

Nick’s love for computer games as a child has become a huge part of his bread and butter as Space.com’s executive producer of entertainment and games.

The Great American Novel
When Nick agreed to introduce Edenborn to an awaiting Auburn audience, Wenzel was very delighted. It had been a lifelong dream of his grandmother’s to meet Dr. Sagan and invite him over for dinner. But both passed away before he could help her accomplish that goal. Getting Nick to headline Authors Exposed, Wenzel said, was definitely the next best thing.

Nick doesn’t consider himself a scientist or a science fiction writer, or even a futurist. But his books, hauntingly, do convey a kind of future vision for planet Earth to his readers. Idlewild, the book that begins the trilogy, (its title is taken from a town in Pennsylvania he once visited) is a kind of “coming of age story,” said Nick, “about a group of teenagers who’ve survived Armageddon.” Everfree, the third novel (available September, 2005) continues their story where they try to answer the question, “How will mankind rebuild after the Apocalypse?”

“I’ve been getting tremendous feedback. The reviews have been phenomenal,” noted Nick. And both of his books were a hit at Wenzel’s show, selling out within minutes.

Nick will continue living in the Finger Lakes and working on Everfree. He will also be commuting to Hollywood for other projects there that are in the works. In the meantime, he is mulling a prospective writing project that several people have been urging him to take on. If Nick does decide to puruse this project, it could become his next big, sweeping novel. Nick Sagan fans will be eagerly anticipating the results.


by Frances Emerson
Frances Emerson lives in Geneva and holds a Master’s degree in education from Nazareth College of Rochester. Currently, she works part time as evening administrator for Finger Lakes Community College at its Geneva Center. She is also the weekend library supervisor for Hobart and William Smith Colleges and a substitute teacher.